Teachers: Series 3 Review
My time at high school was hardly the high point of my life, but it wasn’t this bad. At least the teachers I knew actually lived up to their titles, and well, teached. Those at Summerdown School are rarely seen engaging in class discussions, or lecturing their pupils. Instead, a few rounds down the pub or a quick smoke and chat is really the order of the day. There’s Brian (Adrian Bower), a PE teacher with few admirable qualities, and his best friend Kurt (Navin Chowdhry); who, when not talking about women, is teaching IT. Setting them an example, is the “happily” married Matt (James Lance), who is probably the most sophisticated member of the staff. As for the women, Penny (Tamzin Malleson) and newcomer Lindsay (Vicky Hall), are fully prepared to give them a hard time.
Creator Tim Loane was clearly onto something with Teachers. We should respect these members of society, but if anything, the show reveals them for what they are - human. As such, they talk repeatedly about sex, get drunk, and insult the students at every opportunity. The writers have adopted a crazed sense of humour, with the odd moment of inspired weirdness. Over its four-year run (the current series is now on Ch. 4), it has developed a pretty large fan base, but has maintained its cult appeal. The best episodes usually mix witty dialogue, broad story-lines, slapstick and even the odd sight gag. It’s a thoroughly entertaining brew, and often hilarious. If anything, it’ll make you think of high school differently...
The show reached its high point with the sublime second series, but when the third opens, there’s still much to enjoy. Andrew Lincoln (This Life) might have left for pastures new, but the staff of Summerdown are still as dysfunctional as ever. And we thank them for it. Brian and Kurt - seemingly friends forever - are still acting like a married couple, while the forever put-upon Bob (Lloyd McGuire) has been abandoned by his wife; who left him to shack-up with the satellite installation man. Therefore, he’s been living in his car, which is permanently parked on school grounds. He hasn’t changed his clothes for days, and proceeds to stink the place out. Meanwhile, Matt has delved into an unhealthy relationship with Penny, which is bound to end in tears.
The cast really do hold the series together, and have matured into considerable comic talents. It’s a pretty sturdy ensemble, that seems to change with each series. The arrival of Lindsay helps to give the writers new avenues to explore, yet it has always been Brian and Kurt that hold the attention (the current series seems adrift without them). They are hopeless teachers, with no particular affinity for their work; making them gut-wrenchingly funny creations. Bower and Chowdhry seem to relish their screen time, and their friendship never seems false. Still, none of the performers are weak, and all of them embrace the wackier elements of the show (the days of the week for instance, are continually scrawled across sign posts, people’s clothes, cracks in the pavement etc.) The visuals of Teachers are often inventive, adding an extra spark of energy to the proceedings.
That said, with much of the material revolving around dialogue, it is probably the writers who face the toughest challenge. Remarkably, each instalment feels fresh; with new spins on old ideas. Like the musings of Clerks or the pop culture repartee of Reservoir Dogs, never has a room full of people talking been so infectious. They also take glee in twisting real-life scenarios. For instance, the Parent’s Evening at Summerdown is really quite pathetic. Why anyone would send their children here, is beyond belief.
And if the conversations don’t grab you, there’s always the background to watch. Regular viewers of Teachers will know exactly what I mean - the funniest events usually happen around the characters, who are oblivious; in the corridors and playgrounds. Students beat each other up, smoke dubious substances, and generally get up to no good. And yes, that donkey is still around. Wild, funny, creative, and always surprising, Teachers remains one of the best British shows on the air. It should make you thankful for your education, and keep you entertained in equal measure. And for those still in school, remember: just because they teach you, doesn’t mean they like you...
3.01: Big, boozy biology teacher Lindsay joins the Summerdown School staff and she can out-drink the rest of the gang. Brian is delighted with their new pal, until he's convinced by Kurt that Lindsay fancies him. Meanwhile, Matt struggles to end his affair with Penny, Carol is pregnant, and the school's heating system goes haywire.
3.02: The staff has had enough with Penny. She’s annoyed one too many people with her self-absorbed nature. Therefore, Lindsay sets out to put her right. Bob is still living in his car, while Matt, Brian and Kurt attempt to bring secretary Liz (Ellen Thomas) to boiling point.
3.03: Kurt is love-struck when he meets a woman during Parent’s Evening. He might have a chance, except he’s worried about his breath from smoking cigarettes. He tries to give them up, turning to fast food instead - a decision that proves equally unhealthy.
3.04: Bob continues his downward spiral into alcoholism and depression, with only his car for company. However, the tough-as-nails Liz takes pity on the smelly ogre, and an unlikely relationship blossoms...
3.05: Lindsay reaches the grand old age of 30 - which, according to her colleagues, is very old indeed. Should she dust-down the black board and retire? Meanwhile, the school prepares for “Mental Health Week”, a scheme that falls down badly with Kurt at the wheel.
3.06: Stress has hit the school, and most of the staff are at home with serious cases of depression. Therefore, headmistress Clare (Gillian Bevan) has assigned everyone a “stress partner”. Matt and Lindsay team-up, much to the annoyance of a jealous Penny.
3.07: Simon (Andrew Lincoln) returns from travelling the world, and is offered work by Clare when a flu crisis attacks. However, he soon falls out with old friends, after bedding gorgeous dinner lady Eileen (Liz White), who Brian had “bagsied”. They soon make friends again, but Simon has a confession to make...
3.08: When Bob is rushed into hospital, Matt takes over the reigns of the English department, and becomes obsessed with the power; leading Simon to take revenge.
3.09: The gang decide that their love lives are going nowhere. According to Lindsay, only Brian and Kurt have a functional relationship; causing them to question their friendship. They don’t really act like a couple, do they? Meanwhile, Simon makes a grave error - he’s lost the class’s coursework.
3.10: Following a flurry of complaints from parents and pupils, Lindsay decides to become a “superteacher”, with help from a reluctant Bob. However, that’s not the biggest problem - the pub has closed for renovation, throwing everyone’s after-school activities into disarray. Not even the news of Carol’s new-born baby can lift their spirits...
3.11: Bob has a problem with the canteen food, but Brian doesn’t; defending his favourite dinner lady Eileen. She rewards him with a date, but panic soon sets in - he doesn’t know a thing about women!
3.12: In an episode directed by Andrew Lincoln, Kurt gets injured after racing Brian to school. He ends up in a wheelchair, and decides to milk the opportunity; getting his friend to do everything for him.
3.13: In the final episode, Matt and Lindsay have a drunken snog and then desperately try to pretend it never happened. Elsewhere, Penny starts a relationship with newcomer Patrick (Tim Lewis), as the term draws to a close...
The previous releases of Teachers were both satisfactory affairs, with Channel 4’s gem getting good treatment on the format. As ever, the small amount of bonus material is disappointing, but Series 3 looks as good as you’d expect. All 13 episodes are spread across a nifty 4-disc package. (On another note, a box set containing all three series is also available).
The Look and Sound
These episodes were only broadcast last year, so naturally, the transfers are pretty top-notch. Television shows rarely get all the bells and whistles of their big screen counterparts, but I couldn’t find any serious faults with the work on display here. Teachers sprints to the top of the class. Anamorphically-enhanced, the video is alive with strong, resonant colours, and deep blacks. Shadow detail is also high, and compression is rarely a factor (though some artefacing was spotted here and there). Impressive from start to finish, the transfers are probably better than you’d expect.
As for sound, we get Dolby Digital 2.0. All of the tracks are robust, and perfectly functional. This is a show where people talk and talk, so it’s good to hear that the dialogue is perfect - no lapse in clarity was detected. The theme music also sounds excellent, with strong playback. A key part of Teachers, the music is always impressive, with anything from The Darkness to The Thrills being implemented. So, the audio does the trick. Not perfect, but more than adequate. It passes the test with high marks...
Fun and simple, the menus feature slight bursts of animation during transitions. The theme music plays away, with sound bytes popping up here and there (go to one of them, and Clare announces “I want to see you in my office!”). You can play all of the episodes on a disc, or select your preferred story. The menus do their job well, though they do have a cheap look.
The extras are limited to a 15-minute “behind the scenes” featurette, which is certainly worth a watch for fans of the show. The cast all chime in, with a smattering of details amidst a flurry of on-set footage. Some clowning around and a few neat comments make it a fun piece.
Teachers continues to make me laugh, with style and verve to spare. It doesn’t have the edge over the previous set, but Series 3 is a worthy continuation of the show, with much to enjoy. Thanks to smart scripts, frenetic direction, and a game cast, it remains one of the only British sitcoms to rival those American imports. A perfect after-school time-waster.